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Workshop on International Comparative Planning Studies - State of the art and new avenues for research

We are pleased to announce the upcoming workshop on International Comparative Planning Studies, which is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and will take place on the 12th of June 2024 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

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Goal and Purpose of the Workshop

Urban and regional planning as a discipline has always been characterized by an international perspective, e.g. by reflecting on planning concepts and instruments from other countries. However, systematic and international comparative research on planning systems only became established in the mid-1980s as a consequence of the European integration process. The studies conducted during this period aimed to identify similarities and differences between European countries and to deepen knowledge of internationally comparative planning methods. There was a certain euphoria with regard to cross-national comparative planning research (Masser 1984).

Since then, international comparative planning research has become very popular (Sykes & Dembski 2019), which is also reflected in the number of comparative articles in the established journals (in particular International Planning Studies, European Planning Studies, DISP, Town Planning Review, Planning Practice & Research). The comparisons focus primarily on the following topics: comparison of planning institutions and instruments, planning systems in transition, the influence of Europeanization on planning systems and individual policy areas, and territorial governance (and here often with a particular focus on local and regional forms of governance) (Nadin & Stead 2013; Berisha et al. 2021). In addition, the comparison of planning cultures has recently gained importance as a new holistic approach in cross-national research. As a result, there is a no lack of comparative planning studies in the scholarly work.

From a methodological perspective, however, theoretical or methodological reflection on international comparison is not well established. International comparative studies have so far fallen short of their potential in terms of the contribution to theory building or explaining the variation in the impact of planning (for example on land take). On the one hand, there is a lack of knowledge about approaches and principles of comparative methodology, on the other hand, there is a lack of a theoretical frame of reference for cross-national comparative planning studies within which the comparisons can be located and carried out.

A cross-disciplinary investigation may serve as an inspiration and in particular political science seems to offer a rich set of conceptual approaches, such as:

  • Explanatory typologies (Møller & Skaaning 2017)
  • Combined methods (Tosun 2013)
  • Multi-level nested comparisons (Sellers 2019)
  • Large N comparative studies (Ebbinghaus 2005)
  • QCA (Verweij & Trell 2019)
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison (Baur et al. 2021; Li et al. 2020)
  • Experimental games (Li. et al. 2020)


Against this background, the purpose of the workshop is

  • to discuss the state of the art in international comparative planning research
  • to test the eventual transfer of methodologies from other disciplines such as cultural sociology, political science, comparative law studies, etc.
  • to inquire whether the working group can be sustained


The way we will work

The workshop is divided in three parts. We will start with a broader reflection on the state of the art in comparative planning studies. We will send a brief paper that includes recent trends and weak points of comparative planning studies (has been published in German in DISP). Part two gives us the chance to discuss some specific methods and approaches based on suggestions of the participants and examples from the scholarly literature (see below). Part three will give the opportunity to find out options for future collaboration (publications in particular). Presentations will be short as it is our wish to exchange view points and opinions.